The Bannerman hut at the bottom of this pass makes this one of the very popular passes in the Drakensberg. It’s a very short pass and you’ll find yourself at the top in no time at all. Despite its relative ease, it is still quite a fun pass to do with the final section heading up a narrow rock-filled gully. No real scrambling is required to do this section and it is therefore a great pass to do when you are new to the Drakensberg.
* * (3/10)
Difficulty of the pass is rated from 1-10 (10 being very difficult, only to be attempted by the fit and experienced). A subjective quality rating is indicated by the number of stars (1 being low, 5 being the highest). Factors such as scenic beauty and overall experience come into play here, which may differ from person to person.
An 11 km hike from the Giant’s Castle Lodge will get you to the Bannerman Hut at the base of the pass. Just follow the Bannerman Path and turn right (north) up the contour path. After 4.5 km along the contour path, a path leading to the hut branches off to the left.
The distance from Bannerman Hut at the base to the top of Bannerman Pass is 3 km with an altitude gain of 800m.
From the hut, a clear path gently climbs up the wide river valley for the first kilometre. Once you have rounded the bend in the valley and can see the top of the pass, the going gets a little steeper as the path climbs up past a small waterfall and then up a small ridge. The path then enters a scree field before contouring into the final narrow gully of Bannerman Pass. This gully is easily doable except when there is snow around and gains the last 200m to the top. The path disappears here but it’s obvious where you have to go so just make your own route up the narrow gully to the top of the pass at 3100m.
Finding the pass from the escarpment:
The pass starts high up on the slopes of the Bannerman Face just south of Gypaetus Point. It is the only obvious gully in the area and is marked with a cairn and a path.
The Bannerman Hut at the base of the pass is a hut which has to be booked and paid for before you can use it. Spare Rib Cave is located on the southern slopes of the pass just before the scree field. You have to contour along a side path past a smaller cave and around the corner to the roomy cave which sleeps 12 people. There is, as always, lots of good camping on the escarpment.
There is tap water available at the Bannerman Hut and there is also a seasonal stream which the path follows for the first kilometre. This water source runs dry just above the small waterfall and the next available water is in a river on the escarpment, 100m from the top of Bannerman Pass.